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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An amazing and thought provoking movie.
This film is absolutely amazing. It is one of the few movies I watch more than once or twice.
It is an achievment in style. The film manages to look amazing by virtue of Bergman's skill with lighting and cinematography alone. Especially compared to the big budget, color Hollywood titles of the time (such as The Ten Commandments) which look plastic despite their...
Published on July 10 2004 by M. Mitchell

versus
2.0 out of 5 stars Not really for grown ups
Time is not kind to this work. It is probably best enjoyed during your college years, when sophomoric profundity is most potent. Later, as an adult, you will watch this movie with smiles and with laughter. Affectionate amusement, to be sure, but the movie will disappoint. It starts with a couple of actors playing a fourteenth-century knight and his squire, asleep upon...
Published on Jan. 6 2004 by vincegerman


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An amazing and thought provoking movie., July 10 2004
By 
M. Mitchell (Texas) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This film is absolutely amazing. It is one of the few movies I watch more than once or twice.
It is an achievment in style. The film manages to look amazing by virtue of Bergman's skill with lighting and cinematography alone. Especially compared to the big budget, color Hollywood titles of the time (such as The Ten Commandments) which look plastic despite their "special effects" and use of color (this film is black & white).
The subject of the movie is man's search for the meaning of life and the question of whether or not God exists. The film is both thought-provoking and blunt in its presentation of this subject and the answers which Bergman provides are suprisingly blunt.
The DVD quality is great, as it always is with Criterion Collection DVDs, and Peter Cowie's commentary is particularly good.
However, I will admit that this film is not for everyone. It also seems to require (for me anyway) one to be in a certain "mood" to view it. If you want to simply be entertained then this is not a film for you, but if you want to view a skillfully directed and wonderfully thought-provoking (if a bit dated) film then go for it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The silence of God!, July 6 2004
By 
Hiram Gomez Pardo (Valencia, Venezuela) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Ingmar Berman(1918) established a challenging premise a chess mate between a knight from the Crusaders and the Death (Bengt Ekrot). If he wins, he'll live ; otherwise the Death will claim him . And this original duel happens after Sydow has left behind the misery, the plague and an unending war. He's deeply dissapointed with God and certainly he concludes that it doesn't exist.
This game will let exchange , scrutinize several ideas concerned with the faith , the silence of God and its own existence. God is a comfortable idea for the mankind ; it keeps them warmth , besides the man can dream with the hope of a celestial Paradise after this journey through this awful and miserable world. The ending sequence with the Dance of the Death is one of the most captivating and fascinating images in all the cinema story.
Many people state this is the Masterpiece : and obviously to me it's one of the three major achievements ; Persona and Cries and Whispers would be the rest .
But I've watched almost forty films of this brilliant swedish film maker and in his particular case ; a minor film from Bergman is above the average . So my advise is try to find out and watch all you can from this outstanding director.
This film won the Special Jury Prize 1957.
A timeless cult movie.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars When in doubt, play chess with Death..., May 6 2004
The film was produced in a world recovering from the devastation of WWII, and living in fear of the mushrom cloud.
A knight and his squire are returning home from the crusades. Disgusted and desillusionised by what he has experienced, the knight just longs to die. He has just one last wish: to find out why he has lived. Death does not care, but agrees to let him live for as long as they continue their chess game.
They travel through a land ravaged by plague, fear, and banditry. Helpless the knight sees the world falling apart around him. Everything he believed in as a young man has been tainted or proved false.
Death cheats in the chess game. In the end the knight loses, but he gains some solace when he saves a young family from Death. Still, he leaves this world as unknowing as he entered as a child.
This film has a tremendous impact on the mind. It deals with the big questions: Why am I here? Why does evil exist, and why is it so powerful? What can one human do to affect the world? The last question is the only one that is answered: small things, but small things are also important.
The acting is briljant, with Max von Sydow as the knight. The personification of Death has inspired writers as different as Woody Allen and Terry Pratchett.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Release of Bergman's Masterpiece, April 4 2008
Crusader, Antonious Block (Max Von Sydow) and his squire Jöns (Gunnar Björnstrand) have returned home after ten years. Unfortunately, thorough chaos and the black plague await them. Block himself comes face to face with a human manifestation of Death (Bengt Ekerot). Death has come for him and during Block's trials over the last ten years he has felt his faith in God diminish. Block challenges Death to a game of chess that plays on throughout the entire film. We wonder if his expectations are to actually outwit Death and survive. During his many interactions with Death he asks for true knowledge of God's existence and therefore some guidance as to his own. He is conflicted and to some degree he views the concept of God as merely an idol created to pacify fear and doom. These are just a few of the many insights that make their confrontation so enticing. Block's squire Jöns seems to acknowledge and exist in this oblivion and acts as humanity's voice of helplessness to Block. Block likely knows his death is forthcoming but is playing his game of chess as a way to delay the inevitable. The delay allows him to reunite with his wife and to further ponder on the existence of God. But most importantly, it is all a way for him to express and examine his utter dissatisfaction with the possibility that life has absolutely no meaning at all.

I was first exposed to some of Ingmar Bergman's work when I was in my teens. Back then I only thought I understood Bergman. I was wrong; with Bergman there is always some new guidance to provide further appreciation for life. Unfortunately, this outstanding director passed away in July of 2007. I felt obligated to buy Criterion's release of Bergman's masterpiece The Seventh Seal. I've seen the Seventh Seal three times. The first time without really paying attention but just kind of suspecting it was something special, this was years ago in my late teens. The other two times I watched it alone and both times I became consumed by it; once as a pious Christian and once as a skeptical agnostic. I saw the film in a dramatically different light with each viewing but yet it was still a great experience. Needless to say, if you've seen The Seventh Seal and not felt that your faith or lack thereof is being questioned and tugged at then you may need to watch it again. In the end, I found a satisfying resolution either way and the film is both personal and universal in it's commentary, so you may too. It is interesting to note that The Seventh Seal never tries to directly answer Block's questions and almost anyone could walk away satisfied with the conclusion. The Seventh Seal isn't necessarily about God and faith directly, but really just the aspects that produce them. The experience of life and finding comfort in our own personal existence is something only the ignorant or indifferent could look away from, and they may be the only ones unsatisfied with The Seventh Seal's conclusion. As a character Block is anything but ignorant or indifferent. He is more alive and passionate throughout the film because he knows full well he is in Death's grip and he wants to know if his actions in life are worth anything. This is a hugely significant film that tackles hugely significant subject matter and does so without preaching at us. It even uses some humor in doses at just the right time. I'm hopeful that one day a film like this could be produced again but somehow I see cinema going in a very different direction.

The DVD release itself is a very good one and I definitely recommend the Criterion release. The film has been restored enough to appreciate the cinematography for the time and budget, and there are also some great extras that really help to put Bergman's film career in perspective. I can honestly say that no film affected me like The Seventh Seal and I am a Bergman fan for life, with still much of his filmmography left to discover and enjoy. He will be sorely missed.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Profound, Memorable, & Challenging, Jan. 21 2004
By 
THIS REVIEW CONTAINS NO SPOILERS-
For those who've never seen this film: It's always best to see a film yourself before investing in its purchase, and that may go doubly so for this picture. The Seventh Seal is one of those "deep" foreign films which explores metaphysical concepts in a sometimes heavy-handed manner. However, the style will more likely reflect the sincerity of the director towards the material, rather than ignorance or immaturity- this is accomplished through consistency. There is bleakness, with humor oozing out of every pore. A black comedy, this is a film for those who can tolerate some high-falootin' ideas and speech with their entertainment. Perhaps you're so smart and mature that you'll already know and understand most of the questions posed by Bergman- but it's still never been done quite like this. Though it isn't everyone's cup of tea, it has earned it's right to at least a try by those who love film and certainly by those interested in foreign film.
For those who have seen this film: The DVD itself isn't the best one could imagine- there aren't any extra scenes, behind-the-scenes, director's commentary, whatever. However, it IS the best available and, if you care to wait another decade for a better version- well, the consumer knows best and we all have spending priorities to contend with. The commentary that comes with the disc is really bad, as some other reviewers noted- he really does speak the brutally obvious, but it can be kinda a fun for a one-time thing. The English dubbed version does indeed, as another reviewer commented, make the film appear more like some sort of western (or even samauri) movie. I kinda liked it. The film speaks for itself, so you already know whether or not you like it and wish to add it to your collection.
Finally, I'd like to comment on about how some reviews have been poo-pooing this movie for various reasons. Some folks seem to be judging the ideas in this movie poorly because, apparantly, it didn't totally change their lives or something. What did you expect? That Bergman had figured out the meaning of everything and this film is supposed to have the answer? It's simply another way of looking at things. Just because you think you know it all doesn't mean that other people are necessarily as "culturally sophisticated" as you, and haven't received an endless well of imagination and inspiration from this work. That is what this piece of film art has accomplished for countless people, and that is why it deserves 5 stars- even at the expense of other wonderful films.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Knight challenges "Death" to chess match for his life, Oct. 1 2007
this is the first Ingmar Bergman i have seen.Bergman is a very revered
Swedish director.i wasn't sure what to expect with this film,but i had
wanted to see it for some time.basically the story is about a knight
named Antonius Block(Max von Sydow)during the time of the Black Plague
in Europe.Block finds himself visited by "Death" himself(Bengt
Ekerot),who reveals that Block's time is soon up.Block himself already
has suspicions so is not surprised,and in weird way,is resigned to his
fate.and yet,to avoid or at least delay the inevitable,he challenges
"Death" to a game of chess.if he wins,Death will leave him alone,at
least for the time being.of course if he loses,his time is nearly up.as
the match unfolds,we are shown various people who struggle to deal with
the plague and its devastation,each in their own way.also,during breaks
in the game,Block goes on a personal journey,to try to find some
meaning in life in general, and in his own life.we see he is a very
conflicted, tortured soul and longs to believe(that is have faith in
God).the movie is very low key,very dramatic,yet really is compelling.i
did not understand every nuance of the movie,not knowing what to look
for,and the movie is subtitled in German,which makes it a bit harder to
follow.this is mainly due to the fact that the subtitles sometimes omit
parts of pertinent conversation. at least,it seems that way.either
way,this film demands a second viewing,which should fill in things missed
the first time.one thing i do know is that Bergman is a very passionate
director,and that shows,although ironically in subtle ways.the point
is,although the movie is melancholy at times,i did enjoy it.For now,a
strong 4/5
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4.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking, suprising in its bluntness, March 7 2004
By 
I approached this movie with few preconceived notions; I had heard of it but knew little in the way of reviews. I started it at 2 a.m. and it managed to hold my attention and keep me interested for the length of the film. It begins with Death approaching a knight (Max von Sydow) on his way home after 10 years warring in the distant Crusades. He strikes a bargain with Death, offering a game of chess. If the knight wins, he lives, loses and he dies. The movie is basically a vehicle for director Bergman's musings on the existence of God, wondering if there is only a great emptiness. Bergman does not mince around the philosophical points; he takes it straight to the viewer with frank dialogue. I was surprised by this boldness; I guess I am too used to the timid, politically correct inanities of current filmmakers. My favorite scene takes place in the confessional of a church the knight and his squire (played by Gunnar Bjornstrand who does a great job) stumble across. The knight wonders aloud to the priest on the emptiness of his faith and his wish to be rid of God. He states that God is simply a construct of man, who craves a way to deal with his fear of the void. The priest turns out to be Death, who has been stalking the Knight on his travels. This movie is not as morose as its plot suggests, there are plenty of scenes where laughter is the response. I think the movie has weathered time pretty well, even with its sometimes cheap looking costumes and set pieces (the walls of the knight's castle move in the wind and are clearly canvas). It was refreshing to watch a movie that actually had a deeper meaning other than being pretext for fart jokes or gratuitous violence. Incidentally, I was not surprised to see that those who panned this movie recommended "Go", "Last Action Hero" and "Raw Deal" instead...all pillars of modern cinematic excellence.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Not really for grown ups, Jan. 6 2004
Time is not kind to this work. It is probably best enjoyed during your college years, when sophomoric profundity is most potent. Later, as an adult, you will watch this movie with smiles and with laughter. Affectionate amusement, to be sure, but the movie will disappoint. It starts with a couple of actors playing a fourteenth-century knight and his squire, asleep upon rocks on a beach. That's right: they are sleeping on rocks. The men appear uncomfortable, not surprisingly, and they do not seem to be asleep. In fact, they appear to be precisely what they are: a couple of actors, dressed in cheap costumes, pretending to be asleep. Unfortunately, this is only the first of many amateurish scenes. The acting throughout "The Seventh Seal" is at about the standard of a high-school play. There's even a juggler who cannot juggle. The editing is clunky. Bergman cannot direct action. The movie is alternately tedious and unintentionally funny. It is frequently campy and it is consistently cheesy. The script lacks plausibility and, oh, the striving for deep thoughts. Enjoy this film but, please, be honest: you are watching it through loyalty towards something you thought was wonderful when you were young. Yes, profundity can sometimes be found in an old black-and-white subtitled European movie. It will not be found in this one. Even Bergman, after a couple of beers, might admit that this early work should be ranked amongst his juvenilia.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Full Of Imagery, Dec 9 2003
By 
L. J Nary (Indio, CA United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Seventh Seal (VHS Tape)
This film doesn't really answer a question but seems to search for answers. It seems to be asking about life, life after death, the meaning of life, and I am sure more. It seems very thoughtful in the way it was directed. It ponders as if it were a thought. Other times it seems light and sweet as with the couple Joesph and Mary. Another interesting image appears with these 2 people, who of course are married. It doesn't really seem to end with a conclusion but in fact more imagery, which feels unique and special. It doesn't really seem like a movie that you would see now at the theater, its like it is using the actors to act out thoughts or different parts of a thought. It is strange and eerie. There are dark spots, such as with the plague and death. There are some funny parts, from the actors mainly and Job, who is the squire, seems kinda of happy go lucky. All in all an experience, plan to think or just get caught in all the imagery without thinking, I guess either way it works!
Lisa Nary
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great, Oct. 19 2003
Aside from being a profound meditation on mans place in the universe and all that, this movie is some kind of funny. No other movie has ever made such a macabre subject seem more hillarious. The scene where the troupe-director fakes his own suicide, only to climb up a tree which death soon cuts down, and others, have a sort of irony which you would be hard-pressed to find in literature, let alone movies. One of the sayings in my life that i've recited over and over again I got from The Seventh Seal: Whichever way you turn, your ass will always be behind you. The cinematography is truly lyrical, especially the opening scenes. At the end I felt a little jibbed because having seen Woody Allens parody of the Dance of Death I didn't get all the emotional power that scene had to offer. But it affected me nonetheless.
You must appreciate Bergman's courage for undertaking this project. How many other directors would have the temerity to do make a movie about the futility of life so directly and so unreservedly? Of course, if anyone else tried it it probably would have turned out indulgent and juvenille.
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The Seventh Seal (Criterion Collection)  [Blu-ray]
The Seventh Seal (Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray] by Marie Nyreröd (Blu-ray - 2009)
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